Georg Kell, from the UN Global Compact office, gave in the Global Compact newsletter his view on the future of corporate responsibility. Coming out of an executive seminar of a week about leadership and innovation, for a company that is decided to have a set of sustainable values respected, it show that this is not an easy task.
Today, Corporate Responsibility (CR) is global. Yes, if we have our T-shirts produced in cheap labour countries, it is our responsibility why we do that, how we do that and what we do with he huge benefits we make on selling those T-shirts at Western prices. It is our responsibility to decide whether we want to focus on the shareholder value, or on a stakeholder value, and then, who are my stakeholders and how do I serve them. It is indeed a difficult balance to strike between societal expectations and market imperatives. I do not want to make a post around the Olympic Games and Tibet: it is such an open door. If you give the Olympics to China, you have to know who you give it to and not fall out of the air years later about the values of that country. With some smile I recall how the Olympics in Moscow were boycotted in 1980, since they invaded Afghanistan. Life has changed, or is it economy that has changed and globalisation that struck?
As Kell says, global integration has triggered convergence around values and principles. The questions are on the table today, even though they remain difficult to determine and even more difficult to choose for. But it seems that the next generation of top managers is at least more sensitive to values. That is the good news; or is it just my way of seeing the sunny side of the street.
The nature of enterpresis risk and reward is changing. Maybe by accident (but those that know me, are aware that chance does not exist), l'Expansion of April 2008 published a study about the French investment abroad, in fact opposing China to India: the Indian eldorado is not going to wait for the French (is the title). According to Dominique Hoeltgen (in Mumbai) the Indian market is more promising than the Chinese one. The many subtitles suggest that the Indians are going fast now, are aware of their potential and the French (Michel Lemaire, Nexans) should stop focussing on China before it is too late. But is there also a difference in values and corporate responsibility (or not). The article does not shed light on this, but it warns the French companies. Some homework needs to be done here.
And of course, non financial reporting is on the rise. But how are we able to translate values and corporate responsibility into managerial concepts and day to day action. A shareholder approach is straightforward: no room for values or responsibility. A stakeholder view is difficult to define and implement, but it is sustainable. Beyond reporting, the issue is one of shifting attention to sustainability, for the better of both the economy and the society.